Farming is not just a source of income but also a passion for these female farmers from various parts of Himachal Pradesh who are here at the ongoing CII Agro Tech 2016 to learn new techniques to better their production.
Many of them are part of groups with small land holdings and have taken to farming onion, garlic and pea in the hill state. They were earlier assisting their families but now it is a full-time occupation for them.
“Most of us are first-generation farmers and enjoy working on the farms. We mostly grow onions, garlic and when the season is right, peas,” said Sunita, part of a self-help group called Ma Durga from Bandrol village in Kullu.
Sunita added that the average land holding is around one bigha, but when there was need, several small plots were combined for the purpose of cooperative farming.
Another farmer, Shanta, said taking the produce to the market still remained a male farmer’s job, but if needed they were well-trained to handle the entire operation from beginning to end. She is part of a cooperative group called Jai Naina Mata.
“In fact, we were apprehensive and needed help on the knowledge front when we started. There too, there were officials from the agriculture department who helped us tide over a period when we were new to our present occupation. Now, we are accepted as part of the farmer family and people respect us,” she added.
The farmers were at the agri fair looking to learn better soil management techniques. Kunti Devi, who came from Una, has three acres of land where she grows vegetables such as potatoes and corns.
“I am here to see the latest technologies in farming because such information is not available to us.”
Also from Una, Sheela Devi, grows vegetables such as cauliflower, tomato and potato. She is into small scale commercial farming. The owner of four acres of land, Sheela was impressed by the grading machines and other equipment.
Self-help groups transforming lives
The self-help group movement launched by the government under Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana on April 1, 1999, covers over 2.3 million self-help groups. This has certainly helped women in rural areas.
A self-help group of more than 35 women from Pragpur village, under the Dehra sub-division of Kangra district, also visited the fair.
Urmila Devi, a member of the group, said, “Working offers a sense of self-worth when it starts giving monetary returns. Our group has 32 women from the same village and makes 10 varieties of pickles besides papad and ‘namkeen’.”
More than 40 women from Sundesh, another self-help group from a small village in Nalagarh, visited the fair for the first time. A member, Beasa Devi, said, “I was introduced to the group by my granddaughter. Though the money that I get is definitely not a necessity but it gives me peace.”